Herbal Recipes for a Holiday Feast

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10 Recipes For A Holiday Feast:

Potted Muscovy Duck with Sweet Marjoram and Elderberries
Herb Crackers
Fresh Oyster Stew with Fennel and Chervil
Saffron Baguettes
Couscous Confetti Salad in Red Chard Bundles
Braised Winter Vegetables with Thyme LeavesRoast Goose with Fresh Sage, Winter Savory, and Black Walnuts
Wild Mountain Huckleberry Compote
Butternut Squash and Chive Cakes
Caramelized Apple and Pear Bread Pudding with Fresh Mint
Anise Shortbread Cookies

As a head chef in a private club, I’m either cooking or thinking about cooking for most of my waking hours. So what do I do when the holidays roll around and I want special time with my family? Cook, of course. My wife is a chef as well–my pastry chef, in fact–so cooking is truly a family affair. When I was asked to design a special holiday menu for The Herb Companion, my thoughts turned to our own family celebrations, where parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and various offspring create standing-room-only festivities, and the feasting can go on for hours.

This large and rambunctious group likes to gather in the kitchen to watch, taste, and maybe even help, so informality is the rule. Yet we love tradition, both in the dishes we choose and the way we present them. For us, the winter holidays are a warm time with lots of memories.

In planning this menu, I thought of my grandmother’s succulent roasts and the abundance of wild berries in Pennsylvania in the fall. I remembered a little ritual with my grandfather in which we would share a bowl of oyster stew: he would keep the oysters, I would get the broth. I thought of the sweet spiciness of my mom’s holiday baking. Then I tried to give those memories a little twist with the aid of plenty of fresh herbs.

The recipes given here will serve eight to ten, assuming small servings of many dishes stretched out over a long, leisurely late afternoon and evening. If you omit some courses, you might want to increase amounts accordingly.

If the preparation for so many dishes seems daunting, consider that much of the work can be done anywhere from a day to more than a week in advance. I’ve included some guidelines along with the recipes to help make this holiday feast a treat for the cook, too.

David Daggett is executive chef at Fox Acres, a secluded golf and country club at Red Feather Lakes, high in the Colorado Rockies. He received his training at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

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